People close to Tom Thibodeau are convinced that the Bulls will fire him after the season is over, writes Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who notes that the Bulls front office has continually batted down persistent rumors of a rift with the coach. The Bulls are in as strong a position as they’ve been in some time with a 3-0 series lead on the Bucks and a presumptive matchup with LeBron James and the Cavs looming, as Lowe examines. Still, few around the NBA expect the former Coach of the Year to be back in Chicago next season, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post, who notes that many view Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg as the likely replacement for Thibodeau.
The news jibes with several reports from the past few months. Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote earlier this month that the Bulls and Thibodeau were “widely expected” to part ways and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune in January described the relationship between Thibodeau and the front office as “beyond repair,” which drew a denial from GM Gar Forman. In any case, it would appear the onus to cut ties would be on the team, as Johnson recently surmised that the coach probably wouldn’t walk away from the job if it were entirely up to him.
The Magic have interest in Thibodeau should he become available, as several league sources suggested to Chris Mannix of SI.com and as Stein later confirmed. People connected to Thibodeau have explored the Magic, among other teams, as a possible landing spot should he no longer be coaching the Bulls, according to Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. It’s unclear if Thibodeau would emerge as a serious candidate for the Nuggets or Thunder openings, but given his resume, it wouldn’t be surprising. Thibodeau has compiled a record of 255-139 in five seasons with the Bulls, guiding them to the playoffs each year in spite of a multitude of injuries to Derrick Rose and others, and before that he spent two decades as an NBA assistant, winning a title with the Celtics in 2008.